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Wojo’s mantra is simple: combine the functionality of an office with the atmosphere of a well-run hotel.


home due to coronavirus” and 22% stated their productivity is down due to WFH distractions. “Working from home was noticeably taking its toll on mental health and productivity,” says James Wheatcroft, vice-president of marketing at Accor Northern Europe. “[So] we started to explore the notion of working from anywhere and launched our Hotel Office.”


The service enables anyone to book a regular space or one-off room in an Accor hotel, providing a solution that offers socially isolated work spaces with the added perks of room service and a cheeky bar below the office. More a stop-gap solution than a long-term plan, it’s a trend that other hoteliers are also tapping into. In February, Hyatt launched its Great Relocate offering, calling on guests to “swap their spare room for working poolside” in locations such as Cape Town or Dubai, Taghazout or Venice “without the usual crowds”.


What’s next? Accor’s vision for co-working spaces extends far beyond rent-a-room offerings, however, as Wheatcroft clarifies. Instead, with brands like Wojo and Mama Works – the latter slightly younger and hipper than Wojo – Accor’s vision for co-working spaces is altogether more ambitious.


“Moving forward, we see the solution being a hybrid model with employers rethinking commercial real estate and office spaces to enable employees to work from home two or three days a week and work from anywhere the rest of the time,” explains Wheatcroft. Working from anywhere in this instance includes home working, hotel working and hotel-office working. At Wojo, guests have three workspaces to choose from. Wojo corners, although originally located in Accor hotels, will eventually launch inside railway stations, airports and shopping centres. Then there’s Wojo sites, which act as private standalone working spaces in dedicated venues fitted with bars, meeting rooms and offices. Wojo Spots, meanwhile, are all


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housed in Accor hotels and require significantly less investment. Design is a clear selling point for the Wojo brand, perhaps best exemplified by its flagship property in Montmartre with its minimalist aesthetic: white walls, pine desks, filament bulbs and geometric prints. Its Lyonnaise property, Grand Hôtel-Dieu, won best retail urban project at the Mapic Awards in 2018 for its impressive reconversion by Bouygues Immobilier. Speak to Bensimon and the desire to make Wojo buildings both functional and memorable is clear. “Design is very important,” he says. “You have to give a story to your space and that’s the reason that each Wojo site has its own designer and its own story”. A story also needs some atmosphere and Bensimon places a high premium on sociability and service in Wojo spaces. Given that many home workers are coming to these venues to be social, and office workers still want the buzz of the traditional workplace, striking the balance between work and play is key. “I tried to conserve the hospitality code inside Wojo office buildings and now it’s time to put some of the office back into hospitality,” Bensimon says. “My aim is to create an emotional path in every building. That begins with a hello in the morning and a goodbye in the evening… There is a real lifestyle around you to take more pleasure in going to work.” Of course, it remains to be seen how many people buy into the co-working hotel concept once offices reopen. For all the assumptions that society will be recalibrated post-pandemic, some office workers will be rushing back to their old routines. The thought of venturing somewhere entirely new might be less enticing than a return back to old haunts. Wheatcroft remains confident in the co-working space. After all, he says, “Accor had huge ambitions for Wojo long before the pandemic”.


“As businesses come out of the pandemic, many companies will not need permanent office space and will look for alternatives to reduce rental costs. Working from anywhere will likely stay in high demand,” he says. “What’s more, from a personnel perspective, the pandemic has forced businesses and teams to react and adapt and people have proven that even in the most challenging circumstances they can WFA and deliver. This will change the future of work, so Wojo and Hotel Office will be here to stay.” Bensimon is continuing to encourage companies to experiment with the Wojo model. Right now, predicting when the pandemic might end and when office life might restart is currently his “biggest challenge”. Recently, he says, a company director was so impressed by the Wojo experience that he signed a long-term contract. “They will not be coming back to a traditional lease in a traditional building,” Bensimon says. “They [want to] stay in hotels, because that is where there is life.” ●


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


Wojo


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